“F***! Not at one point of what I thought then, [unintelligible] not even close,” Victor Podobnyy, one of the alleged spies, says in a recorded conversation, according to a criminal complaint unsealed Monday. “[Unintelligible] movies about James Bond. Of course, I wouldn't fly helicopters, but pretend to be someone else at a minimum.”
“I also thought I would at least go abroad with a different passport,” the other alleged spy, Igor Sporyshev, says in the April 2013 recording, commiserating in espionage-related malaise.
And when it came to prying information from young women, forget about it. The FBI said they recorded other conversations in which the Russians discuss trying to recruit “several young women with ties to a major university located in New York” and the hardships that came along with the bumbling attempts.
“I have lots of ideas about such girls, but these ideas are not actionable because they don’t allow [you] to get close enough,” Sporyshev says in another April 2013 recording. “And in order to be close, you either need to f*** them or use other levers to influence them to execute my requests. So when you tell me about girls, in my experience, it’s very rare that something workable will come of it.”
The FBI later interviewed two women who had been approached by Podobny and they separately told the federal agents he tried to "ingratiate himself and gain information from each of them," the complaint says.
Podobnyy and Sporyshev were named by the FBI Monday as Russian spies posing as diplomats who were handling a secret agent – a “non-official cover” agent named Evgeny Buryakov. Buryakov was known to the outside world only as a banker working in mid-town Manhattan. Buryakov was arrested Monday but Podobnyy and Sporyshev got off since they no longer live in the U.S. and have the cover of diplomatic immunity anyway.
The criminal complaint says Buryakov met with his handlers more than four dozen times from March 2012 to September 2014, many times passing small objects or notes back and forth. The complaint says the ring worked for Russia’s Directorate-ER within the SVR Russian intelligence service, and were tasked with stealing economic secrets.
The complaint also says that the SVR worked with an unnamed Russian news outlet. An official with knowledge of the case confirmed that outlet is Russia's TASS news agency, which was first reported by The Daily Beast.
Despite the candid and sometimes comical FBI recordings, today the Russian Foreign Ministry said there was “no evidence” supporting the espionage charges leveled by the U.S. government and demanded access to Buryakov.